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Rudi Gernreich – The Total Look

Recently Madge reported on a wonderful fashion design show, The Little Black Dress, curated by André Leon Talley at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum.  Little did she know that in another exhibit right around the corner lay a riot of color in waiting.

The exhibit entitled “The Total Look: The Creative Collaboration between Rudi Gernreich, Peggy Moffitt, and William Claxton” is a celebration of one of the most important collaborations in the history of fashion design.  Gernreich the designer, Moffitt the muse and model and Claxton the photographer who together provided the pop era with some of its most memorable images.  Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look

The Talley and Gernreich exhibits could not have been more different.   Moving from the consciously styled array of black into Gernreich’s 60s – 70s pop culture exuberance was liberating and uplifting; showing once again however you might love black there is power in color!

Austrian born Gernreich worked his way up through various women’s wear and swimsuit designers throughout the 1950s and started his company in Los Angeles in 1960.

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look
Some of Gernreich’s Famous Pop Art Prints
Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look
New Designs – New Fabrics

Having a west coast sensibility liberated Gernreich from fashion conventions allowing him to try different techniques and materials including the incorporation of plastic into his more futuristic designs.

Moffitt and Claxton, who were married until his death at age 80 in 2011, had such a tight friendship and working relationship with Gernreich that the three are pretty much inseparable in the making of this distinctive look.

The clothes on display were from Moffitt’s personal collection and left Madge giggling with glee at every turn.  Punctuating the collection were Claxton’s iconic photographs that really invoked the era.  The gallery’s walls were awash in hot colors of pink, blue and yellow that really set off the clothes.

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look
Colorful Walls for Colorful Clothes

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look

Gernreich was infamous for designs that drew attention to the female form but was right in the thick of the women’s liberation movement, even designing a more comfortable bra without wire and featuring a front closure.Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look

Known for his bathing suits there was a wonderful array of styles on display.

Of course you can’t talk about swimsuits without mentioning his most famous design, the monokini; a topless bathing suit that caused a sensation in 1964.  Moffit’s beautiful photo modeling the suit is one of the most famous fashion photographs of all time.

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look
That Famous Photo

Holding a place of honor at the back of the gallery next to that iconic photograph, Madge was so excited to finally see that famous suit. It was, however, on close inspection, a bit of a disappointment.

Using the swimsuit technology of the day meant it was made with very thick fabric.  Plus lacking today’s spandex and with the high waist, the bottom looked more like grandmas drawers than sexy siren.  Oh, well.

Rudi Gernreich - The Total Look
The Swimsuit that Changed the World!

Despite that minor let down, the exhibit was an absolutely fabulous time capsule of a specific place and time.  A time that was much more optimistic and forward-looking then today.

Some of Madge’s Favorites

Madge had a blast and made a vow to get more color into her wardrobe!

Enjoy this Swinging 60s video of Moffitt in all her Gernreich glory.


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